Finding your Rhythm

One of the key concepts in Kanban and other Lean approaches is Cadence. To borrow from Mary and Tom Poppendieck, as quoted by Karl Scotland:

“A regular cadence, or ‘heartbeat,’ establishes the capability of a team to reliably deliver working software at a dependable velocity.  An organization that delivers at a regular cadence has established its process capability and can easily measure its capacity.”

Simply put – how much work can you do in a defined time period?

Now in Kanban, this time period is not set upfront in the form of a fixed “sprint” or “iteration”. The idea in Kanban is to embrace (and eventually optimize) the natural flow of work. Over time, with the same team, a regular pattern (cadence) should emerge.

I am thrilled to report that I have established a regular cadence in my work environment!

What goes up …

For almost a year now, I’ve been using Kanban to manage my personal workload at the office. At first, I used the AgileZen and LeanKitKanban web-based boards. However, I quickly found that I respond much better to the very tangible sense of achievement inherent in moving stickies across a physical board. I now have a small white board propped up on my desk.

Four months ago, I also started tracking my weekly velocity, more out of curiosity than from having a specific measurement goal. After two months, a surprising pattern started to emerge. Apart from one outlier week where my productivity was particularly low due to a number of internal issues, it seems my personal productivity follows a two-week cycle of “up” and “down” time.

Like a sine curve – or my very own yin and yang of work –  a very busy week is always followed by a slower week. Slower by my standards, that is.

… must come down

This discovery of self has been very liberating. Before I understood my natural work rhythm – a rhythm that enables me to consistently produce high-quality work – I was often frustrated with what I felt were “unproductive” weeks. I would push myself harder in those weeks, not realizing that by doing so, I was not giving myself the “down” time I needed to regroup and recharge.

To make matters worse, by pushing myself harder in my slow weeks, I was in fact driving down my overall productivity. Because I wasn’t allowing myself the required “down” time, I wasn’t generating enough creativity and motivation for the following week. A vicious cycle indeed.

Now that I have discovered my natural cadence, I have stopped berating myself for needing “down” time. Instead, I’m embracing my natural cadence. And in doing so, it seems that I may be maximizing my throughput. The last two cycles have shown a notable increase in velocity. I’m not exactly sure why, yet. But I do know I have been feeling particularly creative of late.

Maybe, just maybe, working with myself instead of against myself, has something to do with it?

This entry was posted in Kanban, Lean, Personal Kanban and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Finding your Rhythm

  1. topsurf says:

    I have found one of the best things about using Personal Kanban is the lessons I learn about myself. Working with myself instead of against myself is one of those lessons. I am a firm believer in down time and the importance of that time for my own well being. It took me a long time to get to that place and my personal kanban was a big part of me seeing that first hand. No matter how long it took me to get there, I’m glad I’ve arrived.

    This is another excellent post. I am so glad you are sharing what you are finding through your kanban, much of it is striking a cord with me and causing me to look at my own discoveries.

  2. Pingback: Scrum Foundations – Empiricism, Self Organization, Prioritisation, Rhythm and Collaboration | Agile Jottings

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